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Born: Sept. 23, 1948Appointed: Municipal court in November 1996 by Gov. Pete Wilson. Elevated with court consolidation.Previous Judicial Experience: NoneLaw degree: Hastings College of the LawJudge Jon Rolefson runs the busiest courtroom in town — his way.The Alameda County judge has to exert a measure of control, or he wouldn’t be able to handle everything from probation revocations and felony arraignments to sentencing. Hundreds of defendants file through his Oakland courtroom every week, their families crowding the gallery and their attorneys popping in and out to listen for their cases to be called.But Rolefson manages to balance the pressures of a packed criminal master calendar with the expectation that he treat each defendant as more than simply a case number. Eight months into the assignment, he’s earning the reputation as a natural — from both sides of the bench.“Just the volume of cases could wear some judges down,” said Gary Cummings, supervising deputy district attorney. “Compared to all the others [who've handled the criminal calendar], he’s probably the most low-key and easygoing.”Attorneys say it’s his willingness to crack the files and dig into each case that has earned their respect.George Holland, an Oakland-based attorney, said Rolefson keeps up to speed on all the cases scheduled in his court.“He’s got a lot of energy,” Holland says. “When you’re working the master calendar in criminal, you can’t be laid-back. It just doesn’t work. He’s sharp, and the fact he’s working hard makes it easier for the lawyers.”Rolefson was appointed to the Alameda County Municipal Court in 1996 by Gov. Pete Wilson, handling another high-volume department — misdemeanor arraignments. He was elevated to the superior court with court consolidation and took over the master calendar at the beginning of the year.His background in criminal law seems to inspire confidence in both prosecutors and defense lawyers. He worked as an Alameda County deputy district attorney between 1973 and 1980 before going into criminal defense.And attorneys say Rolefson appears not to have forgotten the kind of schedules criminal lawyers keep as they run between courtrooms and courthouses to defend or prosecute. The judge often asks attorneys whether court dates are convenient for the attorney, usually accommodates their requests — even squeezing them into an already booked calendar — and has no problem when counselors follow him into his chambers between calendars.Attorneys also say you can expect him to hold his ground.“I don’t want to sound like your father, but it looks like things got pretty messed up. You lost your job. You went to jail,” he told one defendant before revoking his probation.“Just stay away from Ross Dress for Less stores,” he said to a shoplifter.And that resolve came out recently while he was hearing a probation revocation calendar. One defendant who had been booked into county jail spoke up in an attempt to fight 16 months in prison, noting that he was enrolled in Laney College.“I don’t think you’re going to Laney College for the next few months — not unless they have a correspondence program,” Rolefson said.For his part, Rolefson says he expects everyone in his courtroom to treat each other with respect.He encourages attorneys to speak up — but advises they not drag on too long. If there’s one motto that might dictate how to succeed in his courtroom, it might be a signature line of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “Be quick, but never hurry.”“I understand that an attorney at least wants to make the client feel his or her money is well spent,” Rolefson says. “But even a client can figure out when the attorney is rambling on and the judge is getting sick of hearing him.”He expresses support for drug rehabilitation for addicts who need and want help, but feels strongly about sending convicted drug dealers to prison and not allowing them to enroll in drug programs “as a way of avoiding prison.”He also says he tries not to come between an attorney and his client; in one recent hearing, the relationship between the defendant and his counselor appeared a bit strained, so he offered a continuance to allow them an extra day to talk.“I like this job,” he said. “I feel like I have an impact and touch more people’s lives than if I were in a trial court.”

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